Game 7: Celtics and Bucks play for spot in the second round


By Tim Reynolds - AP Basketball Writer



Al Horford has played in four Game 7s. Jason Terry has been in three, his teams winning them all.

For them, this is old hat.

For just about everyone else who’s had any role in this Boston-Milwaukee series, however, this is new or relatively new territory. The ultimate game awaits the Bucks and Celtics on Saturday night, when their Eastern Conference first-round series ends on Boston’s home floor — the winner moving into the second round to face the Philadelphia 76ers, the loser going home for the summer.

“We’re going to be in a tough position,” Milwaukee guard Eric Bledsoe said. “We’ve just got to come out and fight. … We’ve just got to find a way.”

The Celtics have been in more Game 7s than any franchise in NBA history. This will be the 32nd such game for Boston, which has gone 22-9 in its previous ones. Milwaukee is going to Game 7 for the 10th time; the Bucks’ franchise is 2-7 so far in those.

“Super exciting,” said Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon, when asked about how he feels about making it to what will be his first Game 7. “This is what you prepare for the whole season, training camp, the offseason, it all builds up to this. We’ve got to come out and play with energy and not get out of character.”

The Celtics won a Game 7 last season against Washington in the second round, albeit with quite a different roster. There’s four members of the current Boston rotation — Horford, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart — who played for the Celtics in that game, and the moment clearly wasn’t too big for them. That foursome shot a combined 13 for 22 in that matchup.

“We have a lot of new pieces, and even for some guys that were (with Boston last year), it’s different,” Horford said. “Game 7s are fun.”

Boston reserves Aron Baynes and Shane Larkin have a little taste of Game 7s past as well: They were on opposite sides of the San Antonio-Dallas deciding game in 2014, both playing a few minutes off the bench, neither scoring.

For Milwaukee, Terry was part of Game 7 wins in his 20s and 30s, and now will aim to be part of one in his 40s. Bledsoe appeared in his only Game 7 to date six years ago, and most of the rest of the Bucks have never been on this sort of stage.

Both teams are 3-0 at home in this series, and the Celtics obviously hope that form holds on Saturday at TD Garden.

“Our guys get to experience a Game 7,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Which, again, we didn’t want. But it’s a Game 7 in TD Garden. It’s what you play for. It should be what you’re most excited about, what you work for all summer, what you work for all year. It’s a blast.”

A look at the Bucks-Celtics first-round series finale:

BUCKS AT CELTICS

Series tied 3-3. Game 7, 8 p.m. EDT, TNT.

NEED TO KNOW: Home teams still win Game 7s about 80 percent of the time, an obvious good sign for the Celtics, but in five of the last six seasons a road team has prevailed once. If Milwaukee pulls this off, the Bucks will become the sixth No. 7 playoff seed since 1984 to eliminate a No. 2 seed — and would end the NBA’s longest drought without a series win. The Bucks haven’t been to the second round since 2001.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Bucks F Giannis Antetokounmpo decided he needed to be more aggressive before Game 6, then led the team with 31 points and 14 rebounds to help Milwaukee avoid elimination. A Game 7 win — especially one in a place as storied as Boston — would only accelerate Antetokounmpo’s rise toward superstardom, if he isn’t there already.

PRESSURE IS ON: Anyone who tries a 3-pointer. These teams are fairly reliant on the long ball, and they have struggled in Games 5 and 6 to get anything going from beyond the arc. The teams combined to shoot 19 for 64 from beyond the arc in Game 5 and 18 for 62 in Game 6, part of the reason why neither club has reached the 100-point mark since Game 4.

INJURY UPDATE: Bucks C John Henson (back) has missed the last four games.

By Tim Reynolds

AP Basketball Writer

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